September 12 – A Changing Culture – Honesty & Integrity

Read Luke 16:10 and 1 Peter 3:10-12

“Honesty and Integrity are absolutely essential for success in life, all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.”Zig Ziglar

Would you say this is true?

For me, I believe that anyone can develop both of these attributes but, for the most part, it takes divine intervention and life change to cause the two to build and prosper. Once built, it takes prayer and practice to continue. 

In both my professional and personal life, I pride myself on honesty and integrity. This was not always the case. Before I started following Jesus, I didn’t put much stock in honesty or integrity. I wasn’t very dependable and really only did what I wanted and got away with a lot of the time because honesty wasn’t something I really cared about or what the ramifications were. Then I met the Lord, I started following Jesus and listening to His Word, and practicing the holiness of what it meant to be different from the world around me. 

The Lord showed me, little by little, that being honest with those around me sets me apart from most and adds value to not only my work ethic but also my relationships. He showed me that integrity is something that takes a lot of surrender and that the actions and words coming from my life bleed into who I am performing for.

If my life is to honor Jesus, then it should be an audience of One. 

As Luke reminds us, what we do with little, we will do with much. No matter the tasks at hand or circumstances that surround us, how we act with any scenario changes how people see us. Do they see Jesus within your life?

The past year has been an extremely difficult one for me at work. With a lot of transition and a lot of changes, it would have been easy for me to just take the easy road and do the bare minimum to get by. However, because the Lord has instilled within me integrity, I am able to surrender my own selfishness and work for the audience of One and show that I am different in my work ethic.  The Lord instilled within me honesty, and, because of that, I am to stand tall with knowing I am doing all that I can do and make sure that I am as true to the job as I can be. 

Whether at work or in your personal life; have you ever not had integrity or were not honest? How did you feel after? What ramifications came from it? How did you start seeing yourself? The bottom line of these two attributes is that they honor the Lord and show respect to those around us. 

Peter mentions that the Lord sees righteousness, right standing, and in that we become more like Jesus and less like the world. 

And that is the goal – to be different, to be set apart. 

May we be different than the culture around us and stand on integrity and honesty to set us apart from the rest.

How are you going to do this starting this week?

Kelly Lawson

August 30 – Missions Spotlight – Mike, Michelle and Evan

Read: Luke 14:1-24

Ministry: Inviting People with Intellectual Disabilities to the Banquet 

Missionaries: Mike, Michelle and Evan 

Jesus isn’t a safe person to invite for dinner. One Pharisee found that out the hard way. 

Good dinner guests compliment the host and avoid controversial topics (religion and politics). Jesus isn’t a good dinner guest. Even before entering the house, things get awkward. Mosaic Law was clear about people with skin diseases; they’re unclean and untouchable (Leviticus 13). So when a disabled man appeared “suffering from abnormal swelling of his body,” everyone was nervous. 

Jesus broke the silence with religion and politics, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” More silence. Then Jesus does the unthinkable. He wraps his arms around this unclean, disabled man and heals him. Has Jesus just defiled himself? I’m sure the host was thinking, “What was I thinking inviting Jesus to dinner?” Jesus asks more awkward questions with more awkward silence as everyone shuffles inside.

While the guests start jockeying for the best seats, Jesus tells them a parable about a bunch of self-righteous people jockeying for the best seats and then turns to the host and criticizes his pathetic choice of guests. Controversy, defilement and insults. This dinner is a train-wreck.

Next, Jesus launches into another equally insulting parable about a great banquet. The respectable invited guests had better things to do. So, the host instructed his servants to hit the streets to round up the poor and disabled and “compel them to come.”

The parable symbolizes “the feast in the kingdom of God,” the end goal of the Great Commission (i.e. people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathered at Jesus’ Marriage Banquet). Though everyone is invited, the poor, disabled and others on the margins get special invitations. And, we (Jesus’ servants) are commissioned to “compel them to come.” 

Since Jesus asked awkward questions, I will too. But, they are equally awkward for me as well. Who is seated around our church’s tables? Mostly respectable members of the community? If so, I’m not sure Jesus would be a safe guest around that table. 

In Southeast Asia, we are building an inclusive community that welcomes people with intellectual disabilities and their families to Jesus’ table. Most of the families we are currently connecting with are not suffering from poverty. So, I’m challenged to find ways of including the poor as well.                      

Pray: Please pray for God to send out more servants specifically to invite the poor, the disabled and others on the margins to the Great Banquet. 

August 15 – 5 – Faithful and Persistent Prayer

Read Luke 18:1-8

Maybe you’ve heard the story of D.L. Moody. He had 100 friends who didn’t know Jesus personally, so he prayed for them every day. Every day, this man prayed for his friends to find real life in Jesus, to see the truth and begin a relationship with the God of the universe. By the time Moody died, 96 of those friends had begun personal relationships with Jesus. And the final four of them responded to His truth at his funeral. 

That’s what God can do through the faithful and persistent prayer of His followers. It’s why Jesus told this story to His disciples that day.

God hears the prayers of His people. He listens and He hears. He never wants us to stop asking Him. Like the widow and the unjust judge, we ask and we ask and we ask yet again and He listens and He hears. 

I have some friends who need Jesus in their lives. They need His truth to soak in and change their hearts and heal their lives and turn their relationships toward Him. I have prayed for each of them. I’ve prayed for them by name. I’ve talked to God about their situations. I’ve begged Him to change their hearts, to show them how much they need Him, to make His truth and grace and love and mercy clear to them using whatever means He chooses.

For years I have prayed.

Still, they don’t know Him.

Still, I pray.

Because God is just and He hears and wants my friends to know and follow Him. If even an unjust judge who doesn’t fear God can end up granting a woman her request because she just. won’t. stop. asking, then the God who is holy and righteous and good can certainly do the same.

Are you praying faithfully for your five? Don’t stop! There is yet hope. Don’t give up. He will yet answer. So be faithful. Be persistent.

He hears you and He loves them.

Bria Wasson

August 7 – “5” – Goal of Jesus

Read Luke 19:10

Do you ever find yourself praying for strength to deal with “lost” relationships? Friends, family members or co-workers who have walked away from a once-shared faith? When prepping for these interactions, my prayers usually at some point shift to me.

“Lord, please give me the correct words to say.”

“Help me to not be easily offended.”

“Lord, allow me to achieve Your will in their lives.”

Those aren’t bad prayers necessarily. But, if I am truly seeking out Christ’s will, I have to realize my role within the process. And to be honest, the process has very little to do with me. The scripture in Luke reads: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This is the goal of Jesus. His main job. He saves the lost…

I can’t.

When I truly allow myself to meditate on this, I can feel a literal weight lift off of me and a deep sigh come from my gut. It’s a small mind shift with massive results. My role in these “sometimes unfriendly” environments is now not to save but to celebrate being saved!

My prayers for these situations now begin with: “Lord let the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control that you have supernaturally given me, let these genuine (not faked) traits overwhelm the room, the relationship, the conversation I am about to have. I am not in charge of what you are doing but I am in charge of ‘who I am’ while you are doing it”!

If the goal of Jesus is to seek and save the lost, then my goal is to be His greatest billboard!

I’ve witnessed more friends come back toward Christ, not through my opinions or apologetics (which are also a wonderful tool to have), but rather their burning desire to attain the fruits they glimpse in me that I have received in Christ: unfathomable peace, undoubtable love, uncontainable joy, unexplainable forgiveness…

There is nothing more lonely or scary than being lost. There is nothing sweeter than being found.

Thank Christ right now for seeking you out and for the mesmerizing fruits of the spirit He has growing inside of you. Also, be sure to pray for any relationships that came to your mind as you read today’s selection.

Christ never stops seeking the lost…and neither should you!

Nate Torrence

August 3 – Foundation for Life Change – Simple

Read Luke 2:52

The Bible is made up of 66 books, scribed by approximately 40 authors, and was written over the course of around 1,500 years. There are a lot of stories, information, and lessons to understand in just one single book. At the earliest age possible, we want kids to understand that the Bible isn’t just a book associated with Sunday mornings at church.

The Bible is how we can directly hear from our Creator and learn all that He desires for us to know!

Something I love about Grace Kids is that we get to see kids at every age, learn about Jesus and the Bible in a way that makes sense to them, which is an important value in our ministry. Everything we do, we filter through a lens of simplicity so that kids can hear it and understand it on their level of learning. 

Simple doesn’t mean that the lessons or verses are ‘watered-down’; instead it implies that the bottom lines and teaching consist of words, examples, and activities to help kids connect! 

We know that growth in knowledge is important as we grow up in life because the Bible teaches that Jesus also grew in these ways! In Luke 2, we learn that Jesus grew in wisdom as He grew in life and age. He also grew in favor, with His Father in heaven and with all men. 

Our prayer is that every kid in Grace Kids would do the same! That, as they grow, they would first understand who Jesus is, what He’s done for them, and who He’s created them to be. And through this relationship, they begin leaning into God in every way and serving those around them out of love! 

Today, would you take a moment to pray for the kids at our church? Pray that they would have curious minds and open hearts to what they hear from God’s Word. Then, ask God how you can best encourage or serve those kids as they grow. Maybe it’s a high-five in the hallway (because adults are cool!) or it’s jumping into serving weekly in one of the rooms!

Becca Harbaugh

July 29 – $ – Planning for the Future

Read Luke 14:28 and Matthew 6:25-34

Planning for the future.

There’s probably a lot that comes to mind when you read that phrase. Some people relish in the dreaming and planning for their future while others just feel anxiety, guilt or frustration. Even further, some of us think about that and may be in middle of those extremes. Regardless of your gut reaction when you read that, we read in Luke 14:28 the importance that Jesus places on planning ahead when talking to a crowd about counting the cost of following Him. The candor and common sense that Jesus shares in this passage is refreshing and insightful:

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Jesus shares this illustration to emphasize the personal responsibility that we as stewards of His resources need to place on planning for the future and evaluating how our priorities influence our decisions around our time, talents, and treasures. If we believe that everything we have is a gift from God, and that He owns it all, we have a responsibility to honor that with the way we live our lives in every aspect. Part of the way that we honor the gifts God has blessed us with this by stewarding them in a way that aligns with God’s commission on our lives to love Him and to love others.

The planning that we do today, is allowing us to honor God now and in the future.

That being said, you may also ask the question, “But doesn’t God say not to worry and that He will care for all our needs?” The short answer is yes; in Matthew 6:25-34:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

To better understand this, imagine a sailboat. A sailboat is dependent on two critical components:  it’s sail, and wind. Yet, in cooperation, it’s an impressive sight. I picture my responsibility to plan in life as “putting the sail up” and God is the wind that directs the sail. I can’t expect God to move the sailboat without first putting up the sail to catch the wind that he provides.

In terms of planning for the future, it’s our responsibility to present our best efforts by taking the next right step that God has for us (putting the sail up) and allow him to direct our path over time (the wind that moves the boat in the right direction).

In what way can you best plan for the future with a proper reliance on God’s plan for your life?

Ryan Spengler

July 24 – $ – Confidence in God

Read Luke 12:22-34

The Bible is to draw us into a relationship with God by trusting and depending on Him, not our ability and resources. The foundation of our relationship with Him is believing in Him with confidence and with that belief, being compelled to follow Him. With such an outstanding belief it can’t be compatible with anything other than surrender and a changed heart through the Holy Spirit (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

Many of the things we face today aren’t unique to our current times, but are much deeper heart issues that the Israelites dealt with in Exodus 16. When God first lead His people in the desert to teach and train them, what did He do first? Did He give them the 10 commandments, set up the tabernacle, make a covenant with them? No, after rescuing them from Pharaoh, He provided for their needs with manna and quail. Then immediately after in Exodus 17, He provides water and continued protection from the Amalekites. Yes, they grumbled against God, but He was patient. He was drawing their hearts in to slowly trust His provision. He gave them just enough food for the day because He knows we like to store things up so we aren’t dependent on Him. He even established one day where they were to rest before the Sabbath was even introduced. They had to trust their food wouldn’t be filled with maggots on the seventh day, as it would have been on any other day. He does the same with us because He knows how quickly we form idols out of what He provides (Exodus 32).

Today we have money to buy food, water, and security systems to provide and protect our families. It’s so easy to put our confidence, even subconsciously, in our money. Good things are the easiest things to create an idol out of. God doesn’t just want us to have freedom from debt, He wants us to have freedom in our souls from worshiping our own built-up security. He wants us to depend on and worship Him as our only hope. (Matthew 6:24) (Hebrews 11:6)

Luke 18:28 talks about how the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is today still calling disciples to follow Him and give up everything, including our own security and independence for a new life (Matthew 10:37-39).

So, how do we make financial decisions that honor God and keep our confidence in Him alone? There isn’t a blanket 10 step process for everyone. The Israelites were proof of the need for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to make a new way. The new way leads us to humble ourselves before God and lean on Him for daily guidance and strength, even moment by moment (Romans 8:3-5).

Spend time connecting in prayer and looking to know Him more through Scripture, without a specific motive. It has all sorts of benefits that people highlight like financial, relationships, wisdom but the only one that truly matters is knowing Him more. When we live by the Spirit, we don’t just have the right answers, we’re compelled to pursue the right things in our heart. The relationship we build with God is the most important thing and gives us true confidence that lives on for eternity (1st Corinthians 2:10).

Trent Oyer

July 16 – Leadership – Release

Read Luke 10:1-23

Having very athletic grandkids, I have attended many sporting competitions. While waiting for the games to begin, I have gotten in the habit of watching coaches and their leadership skills…

or lack thereof.

There are the “Micro Managers.”  These coaches cannot let go.  They feel they have to tell their players every single thing to do, “Take two steps forward!” “Hold your mitt this way!”  “Move here or move there.”  They don’t have any confidence in the ability of their players and consequently, their own coaching abilities. That kind of coach/leader only causes confusion. Instead of letting the players concentrate on their own problem-solving skills and knowledge of the game, they become dependent on the coach for everything.

They are not ready to fly solo.

Then there are the “Yellers.”  They have a fit every time a player makes a mistake, may even kick or throw something in their frustration. They aren’t correcting anything, just adding more anxiety. 

Their players are afraid to fly!

The most successful coaches are the ones who have given their all-in training to prepare and equip their players for the competition.  They have confidence in themselves and it shows in the confidence their players have in themselves. If something does go wrong, the coach is there to offer support and will gently remind the players of their training with a hand of comfort on their shoulders.  He/she builds up the player’s own confidence.  Prep is over; when it is time for the competition, the players are ready to fly and the coach is ready to let go.

The latter is what Jesus was doing in our verses today.  Training was over, it was time for His followers to leave their nests, spread their own wings and, not only fly, but soar like eagles!  Jesus had prepared them for adversity, told them what to do when faced with it and move on. 

Letting go is hard for leaders. You have to have confidence in yourself, then confidence in your training and your trainee.  If you have done your job correctly, then you should have confidence in letting them go.

When helping a child learn to ride a two-wheeler and holding on to the back of the seat, there comes a time when you have to let go and trust that the child will continue on and not crash.  The same is true of a leader. 

Who have you taken under your wing? 

Who is looking up to you for advice? Do you have confidence in yourself that you have done a good job in training them and now it is time to “push them out of the nest”, so to speak, and let them fly?

Pat Arnold

June 30 – God of Second Chances – The Day Is Coming…

Read Luke 13:22-30

In this brief devotional series over the last few days, we have been emphasizing the fact that God is a God of second chances. There is no doubt about it! By His grace, He offers to us reconciliation, redemption, and relationship in spite of our past. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for sinful decisions. But even where sin abounds, grace is available in even greater supply to all who humbly repent (Rom. 5:20; 1 Jn. 1:9). Thank you, God!

While we revel in this amazing grace and love of God, we must also understand that this second chance is like a “limited time offer.” Jesus described it in today’s reading as a narrow, open door through which few will enter. Eventually, the time came when the home owner closes the door. After that, no others are permitted entrance.

When will that door close? For you and for those you know, love, work with, and live near, the opportunity to experience God’s forgiving grace is now in this life. Just as the thief on the cross next to Jesus realized, it is available to all who reach out in faith to Jesus, up to the time they draw their final breath (Lk. 23:39-43).

What will happen to those left outside? There is no second chance. Their eternal future is one of punishment and regret. For those who were even around the things of Christ and His followers, if they failed to make a personal response, they will have no second chance after their life is over.

Who will enter the door? It is not the highly respected or even the ones predictable based on their external religiosity, who will live in God’s eternal presence. Jesus was careful to point out that His religious listeners might be excluded while those from the Gentile nations might enter. That wasn’t what they expected to hear. But, at the end of the day, entry into the Kingdom of God is not random. Based on a personal relationship with Christ, a person can be confident of his/her future (1 Jn. 5:11-13).

What are the implications? If you have not yet embraced the personal implications of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection for your sin by faith, don’t hesitate. If you have done so, share that message boldly and joyfully with others. After all, they will not have a second chance once this life is over.

Steve Kern

June 7 – Wait, who? – Thief on the Cross

Read Luke 23:32-43

“The Thief on the Cross” is only known to us by the sin he committed.  We don’t know why he stole, what or even when it all happened.  We don’t know if it was a matter of desperation or peer pressure.  We don’t know if he stole from the rich, the poor, his neighbor or a stranger.  We do know; however, his punishment had been justified because he told us so. (vs 41). We also don’t know what he had heard about this Messiah who had been preaching around the area.

But none of that mattered to Jesus.  When the man came face to face with Jesus, he acknowledged Him to be the one true Son of God, able to forgive sins, confessed that what he had done was wrong. Then he asked to be saved and it was granted. For that reason, I prefer to call him the “Forgiven Man on the Cross”.

Jesus forgave him, so why shouldn’t we? Why do we hold grudges against people who have done wrong things and have asked for forgiveness?  Why do we hold in our memories the things people have done in the past, maybe even have gone to jail for, yet have turned their lives around? Do you only know these people, not by their names but the wrongs they have done?  Do you forget all the great things they may have done before they yielded to temptation? We have ALL sinned and, if you say you don’t, you just did!

Judging people is not our job. That is God’s job. Our job is to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you don’t want to be a person who is nameless to everyone else and only known by the bad things you do, make sure you know the names of those you meet not by what they might have done.  Get to know their “story” – what makes them tick.  Let them know you care and introduce them to your friend and Savior Jesus. There was a sign that was posted long ago that said, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care!” They aren’t going to listen to you until you listen to them. That includes your own kids!

We know what happened to the forgiven man on the cross; however, what about the others?  The really sad part of this story is the fact that the other thief who was in the same circumstances joined the blinded jeering crowd, soldiers and even rulers in mocking Jesus as He hung there for THEIR sins!  We don’t know what happened to them after they died. We can only hope that what happened 3 days later drew them to repent of their sins and they joined the forgiven man in paradise!

Pat Arnold